Thoughts on Benjanun Sriduangkaew/Requires Hate
As promised, a follow-up post on the public revelation that Requires Hate and Benjanun Sriduangkaew are the same person, and the material collated by Laura J. Mixon on that topic. This is entirely about my own feelings and opinions on the matter; they’re not statements of fact, though I’ve done my best to be clear what facts I’m basing my feelings and opinions on.
Because naming gets complicated in a discussion of someone with multiple names, my approach has been as follows: I use Winterfox or WF when referring to that specific persona, ditto Requires Hate or RH, ditto Benjanun Sriduangkaew or just Sriduangkaew. (I would like to abbreviate that name as well, but since the initials there are BS, it would have a very unfortunate effect.) When I’m talking about the individual behind all of those personas, I follow Mixon’s lead in calling her RHB, for lack of any better referent.
Some brief prefatory comments follow, before I get to the main points.
My feelings on Benjanun Sriduangkaew, prior to Mixon’s post:
I liked “Woman of the Sun, Woman of the Moon.” I was very meh on “The Bees Her Heart, the Hive Her Belly,” because it was way too baroque for my taste. If I read anything else, I can’t remember it. I would have been glad to look at any other stories of hers I came across, with the understanding that depending on where they landed in that spectrum, I might have very different reactions to them.
My feelings on Requires Hate, prior to Mixon’s post:
The name alone always registered on me as a warning sign. “Requires Only That You Hate” is not a phrase I can get behind: while anger has value, hate is corrosive. Her reviews, when I looked at them, seemed to prioritize invective over substance. I was not a fan.
My feelings on Winterfox, prior to Mixon’s post:
Do Not Engage. Everything I saw of her behavior told me this person was dangerously toxic.
RH has said in her apology that there are impostors whose words are being wrongly attributed to her; she specifically references acrackedmoon. This post says that “Winterfox” is another one of the aliases she is disavowing, which appears to be true if you put together the pieces from other sources (i.e. the origin of the “raped by dogs” comment).
I find myself dubious. I’ve heard for years that Winterfox and Requires Hate were the same person, in multiple places around the internet; this is the first time I’ve heard RH dispute the connection. It’s hard to believe she wasn’t aware of people linking the two names, given how frequently it happened, so if she has been saying for years that it isn’t true, I’d appreciate someone pointing me at that.
There are a few places where people have been talking about RHB saying that Benjanun Sriduangkaew is a “constructed persona.” This actually doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Because guess what? “Marie Brennan” is a constructed persona, too. (There are ways in which that would be true even if it were my legal name.) Who I am here on my blog, speaking as a professional, is not who I am when I’m home for Christmas, or who I am when I’m hanging out with friends. Identity is contextual and always shifting. I don’t need to know what name is on RHB’s birth certificate to “know” her. The notion that Sriduangkaew might be a pen name only bothers me if she’s intending to drop that identity and come back under a new one with the intent of deceiving the community.
With all of those prefaces out of the way, let me get to the actual discussion. All of this is my opinion on the matter, and it’s written on the assumption that Winterfox is indeed another alias of RHB, as the evidence I’ve seen supports. I’ll be clear where I can which behaviors are linked to which names, though, so that if you disagree with the probability of that connection, you can more easily slice away the WF-influenced parts of this section.
I hope her apologies are sincere. I hope she genuinely repents of her previous actions and sees the damage they have caused; I hope she takes active steps to make amends, both with individuals and with her community, so that ten years from now it will be possible to talk about the good she’s done, to counteract the bad. I don’t expect that would mean everybody forgives her, nor do I think it should. The people she hurt may or may not ever “get over it.” That’s up to them, not me. But it would be nice to see good come of this going forward.
There are things that make me doubt the above will occur.
It started with Sriduangkaew’s apology. I kind of want to scar that word with quotation marks, because she spends way more time on her explanation than her apology, way more time talking about how she’s been victimized than how she victimized others. This post says that’s true in at least one instance; I’m willing to believe it. But the post where you’re apologizing to other people for the hurt you’ve caused is not the place to talk at length about how you’ve been hurt yourself. The RH post actually reads as an apology; the Sriduangkaew post does not.
Okay, so maybe those posts were meant to serve different purposes. It bothers me, though, that neither post links to or even mentions the other. In fact, the Sriduangkaew post says outright that she’s apologized elsewhere . . . but it doesn’t say where. Followers of RH can walk away from her blog having no idea that she’s Sriduangkaew. Readers of Sriduangkaew can walk away from her blog without the faintest clue that she’s the rage-blogger Requires Hate — in fact, without much clue what she’s apologizing for in the first place.
She says she’s apologized more directly to those she hurt. I hope that’s true; I haven’t yet seen anyone on her target list come out and say that yes, they’ve been in communication with RHB. If there are any instances of this, again, I would like to see them, because it would go a long way toward giving RHB’s claim of atonement more weight. As of me writing this post, Rochita Loenen-Ruiz appears to still be waiting for an apology, and the problems between them are quite recent — though, to be clear, those problems revolve mostly around Sriduangkaew accusing Loenen-Ruiz of outing her, and aren’t of the type Mixon mostly documents.
She also speaks of this as if it’s well in her past, something she’s been trying to leave behind her for years. But this happened as late as spring of last year, and while it doesn’t rise to the magnitude of some of her other actions, that doesn’t make it good.
RH’s apology says her behavior stemmed from the fact that she (mistakenly) thought of herself as “doing good and punching up” in her anger about injustice. If she’s WF, though, her toxic behavior well predates any adoption of the language or goals of social justice. And it’s hard to understand how she can think of herself as punching up when her targets — as documented by Mixon — were disproportionately women, people of color, or (frequently) women of color. Newcomers, rather than established names. Basically, not the people who are truly in positions of power. I can kind of wrap my brain around it, if I try; maybe she thought the people who should be her allies but failed to live up to her standards were a worse enemy than those with privilege. It’s twisted logic, but I guess it’s there.
What I can’t see at all is how that ostensible goal squares with her long-standing habit of deleting her most egregious posts and comments. If you think of yourself as fighting the good fight, why would you hide half of what you’ve done? On Jim Hines’ blog, people have suggested charitable interpretations: maybe she regretted stepping over the line, but couldn’t bring herself to admit it. Maybe she deleted those comments and said nothing at the request of her target. But I haven’t seen any evidence (other than wishful thinking) to support those interpretations. If she regretted her excesses, why did she keep committing them? If her targets wanted those things gone and the entire thing swept under the rug, why are so many of them upset about the deletions? Based on the evidence I’ve got, it looks much more like RHB was covering her tracks — which is something you do only when you’re trying to get away with something that isn’t admirable. It had the effect of gaslighting her victims, who felt the full pain of what she’d done, but often couldn’t prove it to anybody else because the evidence had vanished. (If you find yourself thinking “what she did to Person X doesn’t seem so bad,” it inevitably has to come with a grain of salt, because who knows whether you’re seeing the whole story? Not everybody screencapped things before they were done.)
Gaslighting isn’t something a crusader does. It’s something an abuser does.
Elizabeth Bear has more experience with and knowledge of abusive behavior than I do, and she doesn’t buy the apologies in the slightest. Neither does the rape survivor who had trouble with her recently. There are a lot of people who aren’t convinced.
Like I said: I hope RHB is sincere. I hope she genuinely does see how she’s hurt people, and makes real efforts to atone for that. It’s better than the alternative, which is that she got caught out, and now is trying to run damage control without having changed her thinking in the slightest.
For now, I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt.
It isn’t the same thing as trust.
So what happens now?
Benjanun Sriduangkaew will not be “blacklisted.” (We aren’t organized enough for that.) Will this hurt her career? Quite possibly. There are people who will no longer read her stories going forward. They’re perfectly within their rights to do that, just as QUILTBAG supporters are within their rights to not read Orson Scott Card, and Vox Day’s supporters are within their rights not to read John Scalzi. If you don’t like somebody’s politics or behavior, you don’t have to read them. Editors don’t have to buy their work. We can all judge those people for their personal boycotts as we see fit.
I probably won’t read her stories for a while, because I won’t be able to do so without this dominating my thoughts. Whether I do so in the future will depend on her public actions between now and then.
Nobody should harass her, or doxx her, or in any way adopt her own tactics against her. Wrong doesn’t become right when you do it against somebody else who did wrong.
What do I think should happen? I don’t really know, but I kind of feel like the response to the community matters more than the response to the individual. What happens with RHB herself depends mostly on what she does, at least for a while. We need to support the people she hurt, and we need to change things so that this doesn’t happen again. We need to not support abusive behavior just because it’s wearing the cloak of a good cause. We need to advance that good cause in honest and substantive ways, so that people don’t feel like they need a hateful rage-blogger to express their anger for them. We need to agree that “the tone argument” is a weapon often used against people who refuse to accept injustice politely, but that this fact doesn’t mean all rhetoric is equally acceptable. We need to try harder. We need to do better.
That may not be satisfying to people who want to see justice done. Thing is, I don’t know what “justice” would be in this situation. Some of the things RHB has done may be legally prosecutable (I’ve heard this may be the case in at least one instance involving the UK). Most of it, though, isn’t a crime in the literal sense, and so there are no clear-cut statutes telling us what should happen now. Retribution doesn’t seem like it will accomplish anything. Restitution, maybe — but we can’t force that on her. The best thing I can see for us to do is to grow stronger, so that this doesn’t happen again.
For the record, I’m going to be AFK for most of today, which means I’ll be slow at responding to comments. Possibly I should hold off on posting this at all until later, but I’ve already waited several days because of World Fantasy, and don’t want to delay more than I already have.